The Importance of Living a Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Lifestyle in Islam

Prophet Muhammad PBUH told us, “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, a person, or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift from him until the Day of Judgement”.  

Prophet Muhammad PBUH told us, “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, a person, or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift from him until the Day of Judgement”.  

Salaam alaykum. I hope that everyone that is reading this article is in the best of Taqwa and Iman.

My name is Steven Pearce and I am an American Muslim from California. I have made it my life’s mission to do my part to help people and companies to be socially and environmentally responsible stewards of our planet – and it was, in fact, Islam that led me to make the decision to have this as my career. I will explain my career path and then discuss some of the issues that we are collectively facing as a planet. 

When I was attending Weber State University for my undergraduate degree, I first wanted to become a lawyer. However, there was a case in NYC that led me from this choice. A little girl that was almost 4 years old hit an elderly man of 92 years old with her tricycle causing him to fall and break his hip. He died a few months later. The elderly man’s family sued the little girl for negligence and won the case – and it was then that I realized that I could not be in a profession that was so unjust.

It was at this time that I started learning more about the environment and sustainability issues. I learned that in a finite world, resources are not infinite. We cannot continue to keep using all our resources as if they will last forever. Especially with our population growth, future generations will not have resources and will suffer as a result. 

A great example of this is Easter Island. At one point there was a very advanced civilization on Easter Island, but the population used up all of their resources and ended up with nothing. This led to mass death and cannibalization until there were just a handful of people left. The remaining people went back to a wanderer-gatherer type of society.

So with all of this in my head, I spoke to the Imam at the Mosque in Ogden, Utah, and told him that I wanted to go into a career to help do my part to solve the crisis of preserving resources and help protect the environment. He told me that this is great, that I should use my education in a way that benefits humanity. By going into a profession that works on preserving our resources for future generations as well as work on solving the impending environmental crisis, I knew that this was precisely what I was doing. Humans are not the only living beings being negatively affected, but all life on Earth as a whole.

Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur’an that we are to be Khalifa Vice-Regent on Earth (Surah 2:30; 6:165). This comes with a great responsibility, and one of these responsibilities is to protect the planet. If we do not do this, then we will answer to Allah (swt) on the Day of Judgment. We also know that every creature is a part of this planet and they also will be gathered unto their Lord as mentioned in Surah 6:38.

Part of taking care of the planet is taking care of the environment, and we should safeguard how we conduct our day to day lives and operations. We have, unfortunately though, been collectively doing a poor job with disastrous consequences.

An example of this can be seen with water pollution and how it affects the overall ecosystem. Fertilizer and pesticide runoff are a major culprit. Excess fertilizer will leave the soil upon heavy rains and run into water sources. The water sources like streams will run into rivers, and rivers run into oceans. The fertilizer will then cause algae blooms in the ocean which causes mass death of ocean life. Algae blooms suck up the much-needed oxygen in the water, as well as blocking sunlight from penetrating the water creating dead zones.  These dead zones will then expand to the coral reefs. 

Coral Reefs have a remarkably diverse range of life. They also help to protect the mainland from large waves and dangerous storms such as hurricanes and tsunamis. Anyone paying attention can see how the number of hurricanes has not only increased in recent years, but their impact has caused increasing damage to our planet as well.

We have lost over 50% of our coral reefs over the last 30 years, with over 90% of them expecting to be lost over the next century. This will have a profound effect on all of us. If our coral reefs die, many fish species will not be able to lay eggs. There will then be a loss of a lot of ocean life. It will cause irreparable damage, with many invasive species expanding and wiping out other species.

Another factor contributing to the death of our oceans is the depletion of swamps and marshes for real estate. Marshes are natural filters that take toxins and filter them from the environment. They are like a natural sponge that helps clean the environment naturally. Despite this important part of our ecosystem, we are literally getting rid of marshes to create new places for development. The land is supposedly cheap, but the cost to our ecosystem is extremely high. No amount of money is worth the damage to our ecosystem, and now Trump has removed all protections against marshes and wetlands.

Since the 1980s, we have lost 53% of our marshes, and 35% of wetlands in the USA. California has lost 91% of its wetlands. This will have a huge impact with devastating consequences as our water sources continue to get more contaminated and damaging what little bit of drinking water that we have available.

Our lifestyles have contributed to massive extinction of Earth’s species. We are currently in the Holocene Extinction, otherwise known as the Sixth Mass Extinction or Anthropocene Extinction. This is due to human activity and is causing extinction at a rate of up to 1,000 times more than extinction due to natural occurrences. Currently there are close to 1 million plant and animal species threatened with extinction out of a total of 8 million, many in the next few decades. 

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Since 1900, the average abundance of native land species has fallen by 20%. Scientists estimate that as many as 150-200 species of plants, birds, insects, and mammals become extinct every 24 hours. This is greater than at any time since the vanishing of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. This has major implications that affect all life on Earth including humans, and this is caused by human behavior.

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad warned us as narrated in Al-Hakim 1 that: “There shall be no damage and no infliction of damage. As a result of ignoring this prophetic warning, we are destroying our celestial home and causing harm to innocent animals. We have been warned about this, as one of the signs of the last days is the appearance of smoke over cities. Many scholars have said that this is a reference to smog which was unknown 1,400 years ago when this revelation was made.

Not everything, however, is all doom and gloom. By educating ourselves and making baby steps into living more sustainable and socially responsible lifestyles, we can help turn the tide. One thing that we can do is to plant trees. Even our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH ordered us to plant trees even if the world is coming to an end.

Our Rasul said, “If the end of the world approaches and one of you has a seedling (or plant) in his hand, if he can plant it before the end comes, let him do it”.  Prophet Muhammad PBUH also told us, “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, a person, or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift from him until the Day of Judgement”.  

Trees are the lungs of the planet. On average, a mature tree absorbs 48 pounds of CO2 per year. One acre of forest can absorb twice the CO2 produced by a car in a year. Trees also provide shade, homes for animals to live in, oxygen for us to breathe, and stability for the soil.

With topsoil being diminished, causing less arable land to exist at a time of a rapidly growing population, we can look for solutions to restore the soil. The Prophet Muhammad PBUH told us to cultivate a wasteland. This can be down by growing industrial-grade hemp. Not only can all minerals be restored in a year which will allow for cops to once again be grown, but fabrics, paper, and fuels can be made. This is a plant that has many benefits to restore the environment.

Every problem that we created has a solution, we just need to be innovative and learn to think outside the box. We also need to look at how our rain forests, wetlands, and marshes, as well as other natural resources have a value for all of humanity. For example, rainforests are being cut down and burnt down at a rapid pace in Sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil. The governments only view the land as being used for farmland, and not the loss of our planet’s lungs which will have devastating effects. 

We can implement an equation to figure out how much a farmer would earn from growing and selling crops, then have wealthy countries give the amount to their respective government for dispersal to the farmers for a living allowance. The ability to have oxygen, absorb carbon, and preserve the ecosystem is much more valuable than to have them burnt down to grow some crops. There are other ways to have farmland. Also, there are new farming techniques that require less land and can be done in urban areas.

Businesses need to step up and be the leaders in sustainable and environmental practices. They need to look at this as an opportunity to eliminate waste, which increases the bottom line, and to grow their brand by being socially responsible. As many as 80% of consumers would rather make purchases from companies that are socially responsible.

We also need to do what we can to be socially responsible. We can use environmentally friendly products; carpool to work or use public transportation; change to renewable energy sources; hang dry clothes; and other socially responsible products.

As Muslims, we have a responsibility to protect the planet. We also should be the example to others as to how to live, and this includes living a socially responsible lifestyle. We come from a prophetic tradition that has commanded us to do so.

Islam is truly a gift to humanity and to the Earth, and this gives us another avenue to perform da’wa and to save our planet. We are all guests on this planet, she gives us so much – and now it is time to give back.